Whales Win Another Round

by Phil Kline

July 20, 2011

July has proven to be an incredible month for whales with 2 back to back victories. Last week at the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) meeting they changed their rules of procedure to address the rampant corruption of their process caused by Japan’s vote buying by no longer allowing a country to pay their dues using cash, credit cards or other non transparent means. However the good news for whales didn’t stop there as the US government formally put Iceland on notice that their hunting of endangered Fin whales has to end.

On Wed. the 20th the US government announced that under the ‘Pelly Amendment’ they have certified Iceland’s Fin whale hunt. Mr. Locke, our Secretary of Commerce, had this to say in NOAA’s press release announcing the US government’s decision –

The United States has strongly and repeatedly objected to Iceland’s commercial whaling. Under the Pelly Amendment to the U.S. Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1967, the Secretary of Commerce certifies to the President that “nationals of a foreign country . . . are conducting fishing operations in a manner or under circumstances which diminish the effectiveness of an international fishery conservation program.”

“Iceland’s disregard for the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) global moratorium on commercial whaling is unacceptable,” said Mr Locke.

“Its harvest of whales and export of fin whale meat threaten an endangered species and undermine worldwide efforts to protect whales.

“It’s critical that the government of Iceland take immediate action to comply with the moratorium.”

The decision of the US government to take this strong action against Iceland only happened because of all your voices encouraging the US government to do exactly that. Greenpeace activists and supporters sent approximately 40,000 messages to both Secretary of State Clinton and also to Mr. Locke the Secretary of Commerce – GREAT JOB EVERYONE!!! Your voices made this an issue our government couldn’t ignore – Thank You.

Now President Obama has 60 days to decide on what sanctions the US will impose on Iceland to push them along to end their senseless Fin whale hunt forever. We will continue to engage with President Obama and his staff urging the US government to impose trade sanctions on Icelandic marine products that come from the companies involved in their Fin whale slaughter. This is primarily cod fillets they export to US markets.

It is beginning to appear that the US government’s action this week is getting some traction inside Iceland. Colleagues of ours who closely follow internal Icelandic politics have told me that this Pelly Certification was the biggest news of the day on almost all of Iceland’s media outlets. This news caused a round of blog discussions in Iceland with many folks questioning why Iceland allows one company to tarnish Iceland’s international reputation when the country gets zero benefits from it. This discussion has reached some high places inside Iceland’s government:

Árni Þór Sigurðsson, chairman of the Althingi’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said today (Wed 20th) on his facebook page that “whaling is damaging the commercial and political interests of Iceland. It should stop.”

Now that powerful elected officials are openly opposing their Fin whaling we might be seeing the first signs that things will change and Iceland will actually end their Fin whaling.

Keep your fingers crossed. Our advocacy is working and we will keep pushing until Iceland’s Fin whaling is history.

Phil Kline

By Phil Kline

Phil is a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace USA. He is a recognized expert on oceans policy domestically and internationally, and has represented Greenpeace U.S. at International Whaling Commission (IWC) meetings and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meetings around the globe.

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